Random Thoughts on The End of Man
Plato’s Republic belongs to a world without smartphones. Smartphones belong to a world without Plato’s Republic. The difference is that Plato’s Republic can explain smartphones, whereas smartphones cannot explain Plato’s Republic.
Every time I notice something interesting, beautiful, or fascinating, my attention is almost immediately distracted by humans interfering with my point of view. Everything that piques my curiosity or stokes my enthusiasm today is marred by its human foreground, which is to say by the inescapable presence within my consciousness of beings — millions of them, in theory — who would willingly enslave me and everyone I care about, and whose lives are utterly controlled by the most perverse fears and grotesque pleasures.
Many high-ranking members of the U.S. military and the U.S. government, past and present, firmly believe that aliens have occupied the Earth, are regularly taunting Navy pilots, and in general do things in the skies and seas that defy the laws of physics as we know them. On the other hand, if you were looking for signs of advanced intelligence in the universe, the U.S. military and the U.S. federal government probably would not be the first places you would look. To put it politely, they ain’t Eisenhower over there anymore, so perhaps one ought to take their judgment with a grain of salt.
Everyone lives for pleasure today, and all pleasure is either reduced or subordinated to sexual gratification and its cognates — not to sexual excitement or wonder, take note, but to gratification, which is to say the release or overcoming of excitement. In other words, everything is directed toward the pleasure of ending the agitation of desire. The goal of life is thus to be perfectly relaxed — emptied of the discomfort of perceived incompleteness, which is what desire means. The discomfort of perceived incompleteness, of course, was the key to life for our ancestors, whose souls were as advanced beyond ours as our technology is beyond theirs. The discomfort of perceived incompleteness is the source of everything meaningful our species has ever achieved, publicly or privately. Hence, today’s pleasure world has one and only one ultimate goal, at least half-consciously understood by most people: to end the pressure of living meaningfully, by ending the primary impetus to do so.
If your goal were to enslave a race that might have produced Aristotle, Shakespeare, Vivaldi, or George Washington, your most indispensable step would be to snip the thread that links that race to the freest and most exalted reaches of its nature. Hence, everyone lives for pleasure today, and all pleasure is reduced or subordinated to sexual gratification and its cognates.
Virtual reality, achieved through technology or drugs, is presumed with increasing matter-of-factness to provide experiences every bit as meaningful as mature adult life in the real world. This presumption follows from the fact that the subjective apprehension of “sensation,” i.e., neural firings, however produced, is now universally understood to comprise the totality of human experience. Nietzsche’s call to the distant “overman,” the transcendent man of the future, has led only to something that would have left Nietzsche vomiting in spiritual revulsion: “higher men” — intellectuals and leaders, so called — whose essential longing is to stop engaging with life, and to stop everyone else from doing so as well.